My girlfriend and I are celebrating our fifteenth unmarried anniversary in the coming days. While the idea of marriage has never appealed to either of us, I have always viewed contract marriage–and by contract I mean an explicit contract rather than the rudimentary implicit social contract–as slightly better than the traditional alternative. Still, the concept of contract marriage (like the prenup) has the downside of being a bit too much like a business arrangement for my liking.
I have often wondered if, were courts to fully embrace contract marriage, they might also recognize a status short of it: something akin to a relationship contract. That’s the issue facing an Illinois court right now, as Nicole Basarich is suing Robert Lane, with whom she cohabitated for more than sixteen years, for “violating the[ir] agreement for an exclusive relationship” and for failing to pay his portion of the mortgage. Forget the latter claim: I’m fascinated by the former.
If Basarich and Lane drafted and signed a procedurally legitimate exclusivity contract, is such document a nudum pactum or merely unenforceable on public policy grounds, or is it instead a valid contract with teeth? Interestingly, the attorney representing Basarich practices contract law but does not list family law among his areas of practice. (Kelly Holleran, “Live-in sued for violating ‘exclusive’ relationship and not paying mortgage,” Madison County Record, Sept. 22“).